Despite promises by the government to upgrade the famed cricket bat manufacturing industry of south Kashmir’s Bijbehara area, the sector is grappling with challenges in the absence of a modern seasoning plant.
In the absence of a seasoning facilities most of the bat manufacturers have to rely on open air drying of willow clefts, which is slow and not upto to the world standards.
According to the manufacturers, a seasoning plant was set up way back in 2008, but it had never been made operational. “The government has always turned a blind eye towards our genuine demands and has been ignoring the bat industry since years”, said a bat manufacturer.
Ghulam Qadir Bhat, president Cricket Bat Manufacturers Association told Greater Kashmir that the plant was set to made operational in 2014 but it was delayed due to the unprecedented floods that wrecked havoc in the Valley.
“The floods also damaged the plant and since then it remained shut”, said Bhat.
In absence of modern seasoning facilities, it takes at least six months to a manufacturer to season the willow clefts containing high moisture in open air.
“If the weather remains largely wet, it takes even 9 to 10 months to season the clefts fairly,” said another manufacturer.
The Kashmiri willow has high levels of moisture as compared to the English willow thus the bats made out of this willow are comparatively heavy.
“The seasoning is way important to do away with the extra moisture”, said Firdous Ahmad Dar, who runs a bat manufacturing unit in Halmul village along the Srinagar-Jammu national highway.
Dar said that the process of air-drying the cleft is not only time-consuming but also ineffective.
“A seasoning plant will not only save our time but also dry the clefts in an effective manner,” he said
When this reporter contacted Director Industries and Commerce, Nazim Khan over phone, he refused to talk on the issue instead asking the reporter to meet in person.